The Argentine plastic artist León Ferrari (1920-2013), with his work
Argentine plastic artist León Ferrari (1920-2013), with his work "Planet (Terrestrial Globe with Cockroaches)", from the "Electronicartes" series, 2003. Courtesy: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires

O National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires opens this Tuesday (16) the exhibition recurrences, with around 250 works by the Argentine artist Leon Ferrari (1920-2013). An “anthological show” – in the words of curators Andrés Duprat, museum director, and Cecilia Rabossi –, the show crowns the recognition of his legacy, which had one of its high points in 2007, when he received the Golden Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale for his body of work. recurrences also continues a series of retrospective looks at his production, through two international itinerant exhibitions – The Enraged Alphabet: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel, curated by Luis Pérez Oramas, and taken between 2009 and 2010 to MoMA in New York, to Reina Sofía (Madrid) and to the Iberê Camargo Foundation (Porto Alegre); It is The kind cruelty, a solo show presented between 2021 and 2022 at the Reina Sofía and at the Center Pompidou (Paris), in addition to the exhibition Parallel Lives, Parallel Aesthetics, in which the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, Holland) proposed a dialogue between the works of Ferrari and the Turkish artist Gülsün Karamustafa.

recurrences it had originally been scheduled for 2020, the centenary year of Ferrari's birth. With the pandemic, it had to be postponed. However, the holding of the exhibition coincides with two ephemeris: the 40th anniversary of the resumption of democracy in Argentina – the military dictatorship was a theme dear to the artist's work and career – and a decade after his death. This is the first individual dedicated by the museum to Ferrari and, according to Duprat, settles a debt, a “historic omission” by the institution. According to Cecilia Rabossi, unlike the exhibition curated by Andrea Giunta, in 2004, at Centro Cultural Recoleta, recurrences it does not purport to be a retrospective. Its objective is to address, as the show already suggests in its title, “recurring themes such as intolerance, violence, politics, religion and power throughout its vast production. Tracing cross-readings”, says the curator, in an interview with arte!brasileiros.

Organized with the Augusto y León Ferrari Foundation Art and Collection (FALFAA), recurrences it is divided into four sections, with works from the Museum's collection, the Ferrari family's collection and FALFAA. Abstractions, explains Cecilia, focuses on works that the artist called abstract, in which the line, whether on the surface of the paper or in the matrix of the engraving, for example, refers to his interest in drawing. Western and Christian Civilization, the second core, is based on the emblematic work of the same name from 1965 – a Christ nailed to an American fighter jet – which, according to the curator, “definitely opens her work to politics”. According to her, “the Vietnam War aroused her concern about the intolerance of the West and the Catholic Church in particular”. This core also includes Manuscripts, alien words (1967) We did not know (1976) Never, Mimicry and Hell.

Already the core Infernos and other devout questions focuses on the meticulous study made by Ferrari, from the 1980s onwards, of sacred texts and Christian iconography. According to the curators, the artist “investigated violence in the Bible, questioned the idea of ​​hell and its representation by the most prominent figures in the history of art, as he challenged the beauty placed at the service of the aestheticization of the most atrocious torments”. In 2000, for example, for its exhibition hells and idolatries, Ferrari produced a series of objects as ideas of hell, in which he replaced souls condemned by the Catholic Church with saints, virgins and plaster Christs, which the artist subjected to domestic hells.

The last axis, Cities and architectures of madness, exposes plans and urban representations that show the illogical and irrational aspects of society. These works were produced during Ferrari's exile in São Paulo, from 1976 onwards. oppression of the terrible years of the Argentine military dictatorship”, says Cecilia.

The curator recalls that, over the last 20 years, there have been other exhibitions on Argentine soil, with different cuts from the work of León Ferrari. In 2004, the retrospective of the Recoleta Cultural Center was the subject of great controversy because of works in which Ferrari criticized the church. The then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, today Pope Francis, called the artist a blasphemer and asked the Buenos Aires population to fast and pray. There were protests by religious groups, bomb threats and even the closure of the exhibition, by court decision, later revoked. With the opening of recurrences, both Cecilia and Duprat hope that “society has matured over these almost 20 years, and that eventually the work will generate a mature discussion, which is what the artist ultimately sought”.

Cecilia also points out that access to Ferrari's work and his archive, promoted over the last decade by the Foundation, has been essential for imagining possible curatorial cuts and new approaches to his vast artistic production. The curator points out that experimentation has always been present in Ferrari's trajectory, both in works he considers “abstract” or “art for art's sake”, and in those considered critical. “Ferrari experimented with the most diverse artistic languages ​​to find the most effective way of conveying what he wanted to say or 'make seen',” she says. “He entered the artistic milieu with ceramics and woodcarving, to later start working with stainless steel rods, drawing, objects, collages, photocopies, plants, among other languages ​​and techniques”.

In Brazil, the biggest León Ferrari retrospective took place in 2008, at the Pinacoteca of the State of São Paulo. The most recent, León Ferrari, for a world without hell, took place in 2018, at the Nara Roesler gallery, also in São Paulo. It is worth mentioning that works by Ferrari are present in the collections of MAC USP, Masp and Pinacoteca, among other institutions.


Son of Italian architect Augusto C. Ferrari and Susana Celia del Pardo, León Ferrari was born on September 3, 1920 and is the third of six children. In 1946, he married Alicia Barros Castro, with whom he had three children: Mariali, Pablo and Ariel. He graduated in chemical engineering and had a small industry, of tantalum, a metal used in electronic components. In the early 1950s, he moved to Italy for family reasons. He lived in the country for three years, where he began his production as a sculptor. In 1955, he even made an individual in Milan, before returning to Argentina.

In the later decade, Ferrari began making sculptures from wire and stainless steel, producing calligraphic designs such as written board (1964), and collages. From 1965, the artist engaged in the cultural and political movement of the Instituto di Tella in Buenos Aires, abandoning abstract production. It is during this period that Western and Christian Civilization, the most iconic of his creations. In 1976, she went into exile in São Paulo with her family. Only her youngest, Ariel, remained in Argentina, being declared “missing” months after her parents and siblings left.

The following year, Ferrari began to make sound sculptures with metallic bars and became interested in new expressive means. In text Published in 2020 on arte!brasileiros, Andrea Giunta recalls that in São Paulo the artist “is linked to the city’s experimental formations with artists such as Regina Silveira, Julio Plaza, Carmela Gross, Alex Fleming, Marcelo Nietsche and Hudinilson”, but considers that “the São Paulo moment is not, as only, the moment of returning to art, to welded sculptures, to abstract instruments (which Léon calls berimbau). It is also a return to the sacred scriptures and the role that biblical writings play in the history of the West”.

Ferrari returned to Argentina in the early 1990s, where he began to explore the possibilities of digital media, such as the series of photomontages electronicartes (2002-2003), in which he focused on events such as the September 11 attack in New York (2001), the bombing in Baghdad (2003), US politics and various events in Argentina. In 2008, the artist established the statute of his future foundation. According to the architect Anna Ferrari, her granddaughter and director of FALFAA, alongside her cousin, Julieta Zamorano, in addition to caring for and promoting her collection and cataloging her works, the institution – definitively created in 2013, the year of her death – “was intended to provide a service to the community, in defense of human rights and equality, among other issues”.

Still according to Anna, the Foundation was also born with the aim of rescuing the work of Ferrari's father, Augusto. A work that the artist had started, still in the 1990s, when he made a book with his father's architectural drawings and photographs of the churches he had designed. Ferrari also enlarged photos taken by Augusto, of family members in biblical poses, and presented them in the 2009 edition of the Bienal do Mercosul.

For Cecilia Rabossi, more than an influence from her father – a religious man, who also painted frescoes for the churches he designed –, Ferrari echoed in his works the religious education received in schools. “The frightening vision of hell at school age served to consolidate these criticisms [that the artist made of the Church and Christianity]. León was a great scholar of sacred texts and studies on them, which allowed him to substantiate his criticisms and use these sources whenever necessary”, says the curator.

One of Anna's first challenges at the head of the Foundation was the reopening, in 2018, of her grandfather's studio in Buenos Aires. “It's a 220 square meter house, with more than 400 of his works. Something very rich, because we tried to keep León's spirit as much as possible, the way he kept his things”, she says. The project had support from the federal government, for the restoration of the building, in addition to a patronage law from the city hall. The agreement established with the Museum of Modern Art from the Argentine capital who helped, for example, in the selection of educators who work in the atelier. By the way, while recurrences is on display, the space will open its doors for three guided tours, lasting about 90 minutes, every Saturday, starting on the 20/5. The idea is that it complements the visit to the exhibition.

The agreement with the Museum of Modern Art also provides for the elaboration of the raisonné catalog of León Ferrari, which also has resources from the Buenos Aires patronage law. Anna believes that by the end of the year, a public platform will be available online to access the works, photographed in high resolution. And later on, there will be a print publication. This entire process of resuming Ferrari's legacy also involves, according to Anna, a "repositioning" of the artist, not only commercially but institutionally, in partnership with galleries Gomide&Co e Forts D'Aloia & Gabriel, a representation that began to be stitched together in October last year.

In marketing terms, León Ferrari's work began to gain traction after the Golden Lion, in 2007. “It is a very powerful award, which reverberates a lot in the market”, evaluates gallerist Thiago Gomide. Together with Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel, Gomide wants to reinforce a side of Ferrari production that is “more provocative, ironic, political and acidic”, something that, according to him, finds a lot of dialogue with the new generation of collectors that has been emerging. “Young people freak out over a series like 'Bible Rereading,'” he says. The gallerist also points out that the commercial appeal of Ferrari's works has at least "tripled", in terms of values, in the last ten years.

Alex Gabriel, from the FDAG, points out, however, that “there was never a market strategy” throughout “a 50-year career, by an artist who never had a gallery”. There was also a lack of positioning for Ferrari in the artistic scene. “In this sense, the international retrospective exhibitions that took place, and which have great institutional weight, do not necessarily reflect in a market that is very avid for novelty, young artists who will gain value in five minutes”, he says.

“So, the challenge of this double representation is to have, on the one hand, thinking and agility in the secondary market [by Gomide&Co], and on the other, a positioning strategy. When you look at the four cores of recurrences, sees that these are very current ideas, especially his criticism of the development of this Western, Christian society, which is in the midst of postcolonial discussions that have surfaced today. There is a need to show León's activism. In discussions with the family, we also felt the desire to be faithful to their ideals. And this is fundamental for our work to position him, above all as an artist, who deals with pressing issues in today's world. Fascism is there, the world is divided. We took on this mission with the certainty of León's relevance”.

Leon Ferrari. recurrences
Until August 13
Curatorship: Andrés Duprat and Cecilia Rabossi
National Museum of Fine Arts – Av. Del Libertador, 1473 – Buenos Aires, Argentina
Opening: May 16th at 19pm
Visitation: Tuesday to Friday, from 11 am to 20 pm; Saturday and Sunday, from 10:20 to XNUMX:XNUMX

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